Nichol: It's past time to stop playing nice with demagogues on the far right

Published September 9, 2021

By Rob Schofield

If you can, be sure to check out Prof. Gene Nichol’s latest opinion column in today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. As the veteran UNC law professor argues persuasively in “Why won’t Democrats stand up to Cawthorn and the GOP?” it’s time to abandon the illusion that the metastasizing collection of demagogues who populate the leadership of the modern Republican Party are open to reason, honest debate, and finding common ground.

After listing some of the recent and cringe-worthy acts of the deeply troubled freshman North Carolina congressman, Madison Cawthorn, and the feckless statements of U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (which include threats of violence and an attempted blockade of lawful inquiries into the January 6 Capitol insurrection), Nichol puts it this way:

I’ve long found it stunning to contemplate what has become of the party of Lincoln. But it is what it is. The GOP has abandoned the American experiment. They now wage war against it. They seek to do what the Confederates couldn’t. No wonder they’re attached to the Stars and Bars.

Given this remarkable state of affairs, Nichol argues, it makes no sense any longer for Democrats to continue act as if they can somehow pursue responsible governance with such an utterly irresponsible crew. Unfortunately, he says, they’ve yet to learn this lesson.

Yet Democrats behave as if this is all the give and take of normal, even if somewhat extreme, politics. They take Republican claims and postures as if they are offered in good faith. As if we’re having a somewhat ill-tempered political dispute, instead of a fight for our national character. So Democrats won’t blow up the filibuster, or the Supreme Court, or codify abortion rights, or the franchise, or throw folks like Cawthorn out of the Congress. It would be bad form. They bring a powder puff to the gunfight.

Nichol’s sobering but persuasive bottom line:

Democrats have to stop worrying they might insult Republicans by naming what they do. It just gives them more room to accomplish the destruction of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.

Click here to read the entire essay.